How to Listen to the Voice of the Customer in a Multichannel World

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During the past year, barriers have been falling between the contact center and other business units within the enterprise. Organizations are realizing the importance of having executives and employees in disparate parts listen and respond to what customers say about their products, services, processes, and even their manner of doing business.

In a recent study of contact center surveying application users, 75 percent of respondents indicated that many operating groups—including product development, sales, marketing, operations, R&D, operations, human resources, field services, and information technology—were using findings from customer surveys.

The Contact Center Surveying Solution

Contact centers and enterprises in general should interact with customers in their channel of choice, either in real time or periodically. These solutions need to create, issue, collect, and analyze feedback through multiple channels, including IVR, Web, social media, email, SMS, and live calls. Surveying solutions must handle both solicited (traditional, company-initiated feedback requests) and unsolicited (especially social media) customer feedback. They also should be designed to provide actionable insights to users so that they can identify the underlying issues, suggest appropriate fixes, and effect immediate change.

Lastly, the solutions should have a closed-loop process that facilitates interaction with customers who provide feedback so that they know the organization appreciates their patronage and values their input. The figure on page 41 provides an overview of the functional building blocks that constitute a full-featured surveying/enterprise feedback management solution.

The Competitive Landscape

The surveying market is highly fragmented, making it challenging to compare offerings and vendors. After analyzing the entire market, DMG Consulting has identified eight vendors that have many of the high-level capabilities considered essential for multichannel contact centers: Allegiance, Confirmit, inContact, Mindshare, Ransys, ResponseTek, RightNow, and Verint.

Interactive Intelligence has made progress delivering a surveying solution that addresses many core requirements. We also expect a few other vendors in the next 12 months to deliver a more feature-rich solution. While these vendors have many of the desired capabilities, they do not have them all; for example, only a few have added a social networking module.

Additionally, how each vendor delivers capabilities varies. As a result, prospects are advised to evaluate carefully the solutions and check references. That would greatly increase the chances of finding a solution that would work well in a prospect’s particular operating environment.

Making Results Actionable

Gathering customer feedback is not particularly useful by itself, albeit it remains the primary use of surveying. Unless feedback leads to concrete change, customers become frustrated and dissatisfied with surveys and the associated organization. Surveying is a first step in an iterative process that should include feedback collection, analysis, action, and change. Tying feedback to action remains a challenge for contact centers and the vendors that support them.

While further enhancements are required, vendors in the surveying/feedback and analytics market are responding to the needs of contact center managers for solutions that let them act on feedback and that support enterprise feedback and social networking initiatives. They are also enhancing their solutions in other areas: tighter integration with complementary contact center and enterprise applications, better reporting and analytics, and new channels (e.g., those that support mobile devices).

However, managers must institute best practices that enable them to apply survey findings on a timely basis. This is easier said than done, as contact center surveying findings spill over into many enterprise areas. The political implications are obvious; the challenge is for contact center leaders to get the support of all relevant enterprise departments in applying the findings from surveying solutions.
This critical initiative will require senior management support, as well as buy-in from line managers. To succeed, there has to be some demonstrated benefit for line managers. Enterprises need to institute change management guidelines that reward departments and senior leaders for responding rapidly and appropriately to customer feedback.

Time to Add Social Networking

Social networking is coming on strong. Leading contact centers are incorporating and responding to social networking–related feedback as part of their Voice of the Customer programs. Innovative companies view social networking as both a channel for unsolicited feedback and as a way to engage directly with customers. They are able to elicit feedback through surveying and online communities and to provide immediate customer service.

Debates continue within enterprises regarding ownership and oversight of social media interactions. As the locus for many customer interactions, the contact center should play a pivotal role in both enterprise feedback and social networking initiatives.
With the right applications, enterprises can, and should, listen carefully to their customers.

Surveying Market is Strong Even During the Recession

The contact center surveying/enterprise feedback market has performed well since 2007, as vendors have delivered enhanced and more cost-effective solutions that are easier to deploy and use. This market has a healthy mix of premises-based, hosted and managed service offerings, so end users can acquire the functionality they need employing whichever procurement model is most suited to their business.

With growth in contact center surveying implementations of 9 percent between 2009 and 2010 and an increase of 7.8 percent in the number of contact center seats, this market has outperformed the contact center technology market during the recession. Enterprises have invested, even during challenging economic times, because they appreciate the role of surveying in retaining customers, a goal that is important in good times and even more essential in a tough economy.

Final Thoughts

As the focal point for many customer interactions, the contact center is often the primary buyer of a surveying/feedback management solution. But the contact center does not stand alone in having a stake in customer feedback. A consolidated, enterprise-wide approach is essential to realize the greatest benefits for enterprises and their customers. However, a multidepartment approach needs to be accompanied by governance and change management best practices that ease the sharing of surveying findings with all relevant constituents.

This structure must also measure the effectiveness of any changes that occur, rewarding and recognizing managers for making improvements. To learn more about the capabilities, technology, benefits, ROI, pricing, and customer satisfaction ratings of leading and contending contact center surveying/enterprise feedback management vendors, see DMG Consulting’s 2010 Surveying/Feedback and Analytics Market Report, which was released in August. The 270-page report is designed to help contact center managers select the right surveying partner, product, and acquisition model for their enterprise.

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting (www.dmgconsult.com), a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting. Maureen Rogers (maureen.rogers@dmgconsult.com), a senior analyst at DMG, has more than 25 years of experience in the technology sector, specializing in strategic product marketing and market research.

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